Kyiv Post | 10Feb2010 |  Associated Press

Demjanjuk's attorney questions evidence

MUNICH (AP) — John Demjanjuk's defense lawyer on Wednesday questioned the validity of evidence presented by a top German investigator, including an identity card that allegedly shows his client was a guard at the Nazi's Sobibor death camp.

Attorney Ulrich Busch told the Munich state court he has seen "conflicting" examples of the ID card and asked investigator Thomas Walther how the original came into the hands of the U.S. Department of Justice to be passed on to Germany. Walther said he didn't know.

Demjanjuk, 89, is standing trial on 27,900 counts of being an accessory to murder on allegations he was a Sobibor guard. He denies he ever was at the camp, claiming he is the victim of mistaken identity.

Demjanjuk suffers from several medical problems but has been declared fit to face trial as long as court sessions are limited to two 90-minute ones a day.

Busch said the ID card — one of the key pieces of evidence against his client — is a fake.

"We question the ID card's authenticity and maintain it is a false document made by the KGB," Busch said, referring to the former Soviet Union's spy agency.

[W.Z.  The original of the Trawniki ID card was first provided by the Soviet Embassy in Washington D.C. for the 1981 Demjanjuk denaturalization trial. It was delivered to Israeli investigators for the 1987-88 Jerusalem trial by KGB-Mossad operative Armand Hammer and not via official diplomatic channels. It is not known why the card was never returned to the Soviet Union.]

The ID card was provided to Israeli investigators by the Soviet Union in 1986. In testimony while on trial in Israel the following year, Demjanjuk suggested the picture on the document may have been taken from a photo identity card he was given when he joined a Communist Party youth group while growing up in Ukraine. He also said at the time that neither the height nor eye-color listed on the card match his own.

Busch suggested in court that several punctures in the photograph — but apparently not through the card itself — indicate that it could have been removed from another document and pasted onto the ID card.

He also accused Walther of being "one sided and partisan," saying he had deliberately not included exculpatory evidence, including videotaped testimonies of eight Sobibor survivors provided by the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.. Busch said the survivors all testified they had not seen Demjanjuk at Sobibor.

Walther told the court he was given a summary of the video tapes and was not aware of such statements.

Walther, now retired, led the probe that prompted Germany to prosecute Demjanjuk for the special German prosecutors' office responsible for investigating Nazi-era crimes.

Demjanjuk was deported in May from the United States to Munich, and has been in custody since then. He could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted for his alleged activities training as a guard in the SS camp Trawniki, then serving in the Sobibor death camp in occupied Poland.

The prosecution argues that after Demjanjuk, a Soviet Red Army soldier, was captured by the Germans in 1942 he volunteered to serve under the SS as a guard.

Demjanjuk denies ever having served as a guard, saying that he spent most of the rest of the war in Nazi POW camps before joining the so-called Vlasov Army of anti-communist Soviet POWs and others. That army was formed to fight with the Germans against the encroaching Soviets in the final months of the war.

The trial in Germany comes after 30 years of legal action against Demjanjuk on three continents.

Demjanjuk, a retired Ohio autoworker, had his U.S. citizenship revoked in 1981 after the Justice Department alleged he hid his past as the notorious Treblinka guard "Ivan the Terrible." He was extradited to Israel, where he was found guilty and sentenced to death in 1988, but the conviction was overturned five years later as a case of mistaken identity.

The trial at the Munich state court, which started on Nov. 30, 2009, continues Thursday.